Think tank asks if Victoria’s ready for the e-waste ban?

With just over a month to go, Ewaste Watch questions how prepared Victoria is to realise the benefits of the e-waste landfill ban.

Victoria will become the third jurisdiction in Australia to ban e-waste from landfill on 1 July, following in the footsteps of the ACT and South Australia.

Ewaste Watch director Rose Read said while the state government has made efforts to increase the number of convenient drop-off locations, she is unsure if communities and businesses are sufficiently aware of new collection points.

Ms Read also said critical questions had not been answered, including, will householders and businesses have to pay for the recycling? What controls are in place to ensure waste is properly recycled? What will happen to data left on electronic items? And can householders and businesses take their electronic goods back to manufacturers for free recycling?

“Finally, will local councils who are left to implement the landfill ban be able to field the many questions and provide collection services that meet the expectations of residents and businesses?” Ms Read said.

“If not, there is a real risk we may see an increase in illegal dumping, problematic stockpiling and general non-compliance with the ban.”

Ewaste Watch’s second Director John Gertsakis believes the ban is only one part of the e-waste solution, and that federal government must expand the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme to include all electronic and electrical products not covered by an industry product stewardship scheme.

“Councils need the support of manufacturers, brands and retailers to ensure recycling is free, and that community-friendly options are provided for electronics reuse, repair and recycling,” Mr Gertsakis said.

“The Victorian e-waste ban is a great opportunity to adjust consumer behaviour, build a circular economy and provide a clear signal to the electronics and battery industries to produce more durable and sustainable goods.”

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NWRIC welcomes Coalition waste policy

The National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has issued a statement of support for the Coalition’s proposed waste and recycling policy.

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said the Coalition’s recent policy announcement would help facilitate a cleaner environment for all Australians.

“The announcement reveals a federal election which has seen the biggest tri-partisan commitment to waste and recycling in Australian history,” Ms Read said.

“The Coalition’s promises follow equally welcome commitments by the Labor Party and the Greens.”

Ms Read highlighted the Coalition’s $100 million Australian Recycling Investment Fund, Product Stewardship Investment Fund, $20 million investment in new and innovative solutions to plastic recycling and commitment to continue working with state, territory and local governments on opportunities to get more recycled content into road construction.

Ms Read said while party commitments vary in focus and values, the lead up to the election has seen a recognition of the waste and recycling challenges facing Australia.

“This is welcome news for all Australians because irrespective of who they vote for, they all put their bins out,” Ms Read said.

“Furthermore industry’s priorities are clear, more jobs, better services and less pollution – there is really nothing to disagree with about delivering this essential community service.”

NWRIC is concerned however about the lack of targets for government procurement of recycled goods, incentives to producers to increase recycled content in their products and packaging or willingness to drive state harmonisation of waste regulations and levies.

“Having six states and two territories enforcing different laws, levies and standards limits industry investment in innovative waste management and resource recovery infrastructure and services essential to building a circular economy,” Ms Read said.

“Good policy combined with funding is the key to effective outcomes and greater certainty for industry investment.”

Ms Read said for the proposed Product Stewardship investment to achieve meaningful outcomes, it must be underpinned by smart, simple regulations that create a level playing field and ensure full producer engagement.

“The National Waste Recycling Industry Council is calling for the appointment of a National Waste Commissioner to drive these necessary reforms and a tri-partisan approach to harmonising the regulations framing our industry,” Ms Read said.

“This process has been a clear success for work health and safety and heavy vehicle laws.”

Ms Read said every household and business in Australia purchases waste services and most purchase recycling services.

“The Commonwealth can cut costs for all Australians and stimulate industry investment by driving collaboration between states, industry and producers and essential regulatory reforms,” Ms Read said.

“It is critical that whichever party wins the upcoming federal election that they work proactively with industry to create jobs, serve communities, protect workers and reduce pollution.”

Earlier in the election cycle NWRIC similarly praised Labor’s policy commitments, specifically noting the development of a national container deposit scheme, National Waste Commissioner and the $60 million investment in a National Recycling Fund.

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New think-tank launches to combat E-waste

A new independent think-tank Ewaste Watch will launch this Friday with the aim of protecting community health and the environment through accelerating levels of electronics sustainability.

Ewaste Watch will focus on three key questions, are we doing enough? can we do better? and what are the solutions beyond recycling?

The think tank is calling on federal Environment Minister Melissa Price to expand the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme to include all products with a plug or a battery, and ensure that end-of-life electronics are diverted from landfill.

Ewaste Watch is also calling on Ms Price to create a regulated national recycling scheme for all handheld batteries under the Commonwealth Product Stewardship Act.

Ewaste Watch Director and co-founder John Gertsakis said Australian’s are globally the fourth highest generators of e-waste per capita, producing over 23.6 kilograms per inhabitant or 574,000 tonnes per annum.

According Mr Gertsakis, the world generates 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste a year, with only 20 percent being recycled through appropriate channels.

Mr Gertsakis said there is a lack of effective collaboration, research and action on how to effectively deal with the rapid growth of electronics and the associated socio-environmental impacts.

“Electronic products are proliferating in society, and in many ways have become an extension of us that we take for granted,” Mr Gertsakis said.

“The reality however, is that recycling alone will not deliver the sustainable outcomes and materials conservation required. Greater attention is needed on product durability, reuse, repair, sharing and productive material-use to turn the tide on ewaste and create circular electronics.”

The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme regulated under the Commonwealth Product Stewardship Act has collected and recycled 291,280 tonnes — roughly 42 per cent of waste arising — of TV and computer ewaste since its creation in 2011.

Mr Gertsakis said this doesn’t include a variety of other end-of-life electronics, most of which are still ending up in landfill.

“There are few if any collection, reuse or recycling options for small appliances, power-tools, photovoltaic panels, handheld batteries and a growing number of consumer electronics devices,” Mr Gertsakis said.

According to Mr Gertsakis, Australian’s import 100,000 tonnes of televisions, computers, printers and computer accessories each year, roughly 35 million pieces of electronic equipment per annum.

“The Federal Government must require any company placing Internet of Things devices on the Australian market to provide a detailed plan for the reuse and recycling of these devices when they are damaged, replaced or reach end-of-life — including how such plans will be funded,” Mr Gertsakis said.

Ewaste Watch’s second Director and co-founder Rose Read said the think-tank will inform, educate, engage and activate key stakeholders across the electronics life-cycle, from design and manufacturing through to retail, government and the general public.

“Business as usual and voluntary programs have barely made a dent in the total volume of ewaste arising, so the urgency for step-change improvement, new business models and positive disruption is now overwhelmingly obvious,” Ms Read said.

“Circular solutions for electronics across the complete product life-cycle is a cornerstone for Ewaste Watch, as is the need to empower consumers to buy less, choose well and make it last.”

Ewaste Watch’s activities will include attention to social and consumer aspects, product design, cleaner production, smart logistics, innovative consumption models such as sharing economies and collaborative consumption, reuse, repair and recycling.

Ms Read said Ewaste Watch will achieve this through knowledge sharing, policy analysis, consumer education, exhibitions and public activations.

Ewaste Watch will collaborate closely with its research partner the Institute for Sustainable Futures at University of Technology Sydney, with Professor of Resource Futures Damien Giurco chairing the Ewaste Watch advisory group.

Ewaste Watch will be officially launched by War on Waste presenter Craig Reucassel at the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures.

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The NWRIC’s visionary policy

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council CEO Rose Read highlights the association’s priorities in 2019 and its long-term plan for resource recovery in Australia. 

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NWRIC calls for National Waste and Resource Recovery Commissioner

The National Waste Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on the federal, state and territory environment ministers to appoint a National Waste and Resource Recovery Commissioner to ensure the National Waste Policy will be successful.

In a statement, NWRIC CEO Rose Read said Australia can no longer ignore the waste, resource recovery and recycling challenges it faces. It comes ahead of Friday’s Meeting of Environment Ministers as part of the biannual Council of Australian Governments meeting, where the rebooted National Waste Policy will be discussed.

“We are still one of the highest generators of waste per capita in the developed world,” Ms Read said.

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Ms Read said that inconsistent state waste regulations, limited infrastructure planning, reliance on overseas markets for recyclates, unfair local markets, increasing contamination of and lack of regulated product stewardship schemes are all major barriers to Australia realising the true economic, environmental and social value of its waste as a resource.

“Unless there is a significant shift in how our federal, state and territory governments work together to remove these barriers Australia’s waste will continue to grow and industry will not invest in technologies that would transform waste into valuable resources that meet local and global markets,” she said.

A National Waste and Resource Recovery Commissioner would be responsible for ensuring the policy is implemented, facilitating collaboration, regulatory reform and encouraging investment from all levels of government, producers, manufacturers, importers, retailers and recyclers.

The NWRIC believes that key actions that must be progressed as a matter of urgency are:

●  Harmonising state waste regulations specifically around waste definitions, licensing and transport.

●  A national waste and recycling infrastructure strategy that maps material and resource pathways for the next 30 years.

●  Regulating battery and tyre product stewardship schemes.

●  Mandating local, state and government procurement of recycled content in products and services.

●  Reviewing the National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM) for packaging and including mandated targets for recycled content in packaging and that all packaging must be recyclable,        compostable or reusable.

●  Increasing investment in community and business education that encourages better consumption, increases reuse, improves source separation and reduces contamination.

 

New team, same plan: NWRIC

Improved planning, consistent standards and value for money landfill levies remain the core focuses of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council into 2019, writes the organisation’s new Chief Executive Officer, Rose Read.

While I hope to bring new leadership and insights to my role as Chief Executive Officer of the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) – the core mission of the NWRIC remains the same.

After more than 30 years in the industry, Max Spedding has retired. He is well respected for his ‘steady hand’ management style. Following his lead, Alex Serpo, NWRIC’s Policy Officer, and I will continue to work for a cohesive national vision to advance Australia’s waste management and recycling industry.

The NWRIC was set up to bring together all of Australia’s waste management and recycling businesses and create a shared national vision for a fair, sustainable and prosperous industry. NWRIC’s membership and affiliates include representatives from every state industry body, including the majority of Australia’s nationwide waste management and recycling companies.

In addition to the immediate challenges presented by China’s National Sword and the forthcoming introduction of the landfill levy in Queensland, the NWRIC has identified three major national challenges facing the industry. These are creating and applying consistent standards, improving planning for waste and resource recovery facilities and getting the best value from landfill levies.

These priorities will form the basis of the NWRIC’s activity for 2018 and 2019. It’s worth addressing each in detail.

CONSISTENT STANDARDS

First: standards. The entire industry is premised on them, as their absence means waste generators could simply dump waste into the environment in an uncontrolled way and put the public and employees at risk. The consequences of this are visible in countries which have no standards, or who don’t enforce their standards.

Success in this arena means both creating robust national industry regulations and enforcing them equitably. Specifically, the NWRIC believes there is a need for a national landfill standard and harmonisation of levies to prevent levy avoidance. We also need more work on illegal dumping.

PLANNING IS ESSENTIAL

Next: planning. Landfills and resource recovery facilities are very difficult to move. As a side note, it is theorised that the largest man-made object on Earth is in fact a landfill.

It’s essential landfills and resource recovery facilities are put on the right site the first time. Good quality infrastructure planning can create enormous dividend for the public, industry and government. Since the need for new waste and resource recovery facilities is inevitable as population grows, forward planning is essential to meet community, environmental and economic requirements.

Effective road access and buffers will reduce or eliminate the public disturbance of these sites. Without reliable planning, industry can’t confidently invest in new infrastructure. Historically, bad planning decisions have set the industry and the ability to recover materials back many times.

HYPOTHECATE LEVIES

Finally: levies. From 2019, it is expected the states will collect close to $1.2 billion per year in landfill levies. As their name implies, landfill levies are ‘levies’ and not taxes, and therefore technically should be hypothecated back into the waste and recycling sectors.

Today, less than one quarter of levies collected are invested back into waste management and resource recovery. With levies on the increase across Australia, governments can now invest more into planning, infrastructure, education, standards and enforcement of regulations.

The mechanism of levy re-investment is important, and by far the largest cost is large infrastructure development. In the April 2018 edition of Waste Management Review, the NWRIC suggested the establishment of a ‘recycling bank’ to distribute a proportion of the levy funds via loans. This ensures levy funds are spent effectively, leveraging private investment so that the funds collected from businesses and households go further. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation shows the success of this model.

Beyond these large scale structural challenges, we are also working on two acute problems. The first is the new landfill levy for Queensland, which is expected to raise close to $200 million per year. The details will be important, and many unresolved questions remain. For example, will the levy apply to bagged asbestos? (Hint: it shouldn’t.) Will enforcement be effective enough to ensure legitimate businesses aren’t undercut by levy avoidance?

The second challenge is the continued impact of the Chinese National Sword policy, which has resulted in a collapse in prices for commodities recovered from kerbside recycling. In the wake of this market shakeup, materials recovery facilities are still in trouble. Kerbside collection services, which have received decades of investment, should not be allowed to collapse.

As the NWRIC has previously advocated, the first step is to clean up what is going into kerbside recycling bins through strong public education programs. In worst cases, kerbside recycling bin contamination is running as high as 40 per cent. Meanwhile, we believe the national average is 15-25 per cent. This figure needs to be reduced down to 10 per cent contamination at the most.

To kick this off, the NWRIC in partnership with the Australian Council of Recycling and the Australian Local Government Association has launched the Recycle Right program. A simple and clear recycling message to be applied nationally on what does and more importantly does not go in the yellow bin.

While the challenges facing industry are significant, they all have well understood solutions. We have the funding and expertise to advance the industry. The NWRIC will be stepping up to promote these solutions.

ABOUT:

Rose is a seasoned CEO with experience leading both commercial and not-for-profit organisations, including AMTA’s MobileMuster and Clean Up Australia. In her more than 20-year career, Rose has focused on a strong collaborative approach to implementing product stewardship and natural resource management initiatives through multi-stakeholder engagement.